June 2003 News

The Chenab Line Formula

2 June 2003
The Nation
Abdul Rashid Malik

Lahore: Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan Prime Minister Azad Kashmir through his stunning statement suggesting Chenab Line as the plausible basis of division of Jammu and Kashmir State has sparked a controversial debate. Officials, diplomatic, political and media circles both in Pakistan and India and Kashmiri circles on both sides of the ceasefire line have been taken aback. The Jehad Council, a conglomerate of different militant outfits operating in Occupied Kashmir against Indian forces, has voiced a strong reaction against any kind of division of the state. Similarly Haji Javed Akhtar deputy leader opposition party (PP) in Azad Kashmir Assembly in his Press statement issued in Lahore has opposed this formula and Yaseen Malik (JKLF) a senior member of APHC in Srinagar has also criticised the Chenab Line formula. Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan held the meeting of his parliamentary party in Kashmir House Islamabad on May 19 which was also attended by Sardar Abdul Qayoom the supreme leader and Sardar Attique Ahmed the President Muslim Conference. It is believed that the controversial formula of Chenab Line division must have been discussed in the meeting but no information of it having been discussed has trickled out from the party sources. The obvious conclusion is that the formula has not been discussed or the silence has been clamped over the discussion held over it in the meeting. The sensitive formula therefore lacks formal endorsement of the Muslim Conference and the parliamentary party. The Chenab Line formula presented by Sikanadar Hayat is termed as stunning in view of his track record of unflinching commitment to the Security Council resolutions as the only course of achieving the solution of the Kashmir issue. He never acknowledged any other option and even did not support the occasional overtures made by Sardar Abdul Qayoom of initiating dialogue with India on the suggestion of converting the control line into a permanent line of division. Sardar Qayoom has been arguing that once the dialogue was initiated it would certainly lead to an acceptable solution. At least the stubbornness of India would be diluted and she would come to the negotiating table. Seemingly Sardar Sikandar has been inspired by the disclosures made by Niaz A Naik, one of the sponsors of Track II diplomacy. Mr Naik was quick to express his happiness on Sikandar throwing before the public the Chenab Line formula. In one of his disclosures made before Lahore Bus Yatra of Mr Vajpayee, the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Naik had stated that he had held discussion in New Delhi with Birjish Misra the political advisor of Mr Vajpayee. To pursue the talk further Mr Misra had quietly travelled to Lahore where the formula of Chenab Line was also discussed. Mr Naik in his talk to some quarters of the Press had claimed that Mr Misra had asked him to provide a copy of the map of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to enable him to understand the geographical locations along the river Chenab. In his recent statement Mr Naik has again made reference of Mr Misra asking for a map describing the areas spread along the river Chenab. This could easily be called as ridiculous because Chenab river flows through the territory mostly under Indian occupation and Misra could procure hundreds copies of the map from his own sources. Mr Naik has also disclosed that Chenab Line formula was also presented by late Bhutto during Bhutto Swaran Singh talks in 1962 and was rejected by India. In the backdrop of disappointing rumours floated by the vested interests that conversion of line of control into a permanent line could be the bottomline of dialogue if ever held between the two rivals, the Chenab Line formula could be considered as honourable solution offering face saving to both the countries. Sardar Sikandar actuated by this hopeful thinking has made an attempt to break the impasse. Those opposing the Chenab Line formula are either obsessed with anti-Sikandar bias or quite ignorant of geographical contiguities and demographic divide the Chenab river renders to the territories falling along its banks. The river Chenab comes out from Himalayan range of Kullus in the extreme north of Kishtwar in Doda district (Jammu province) with high mountain range of Himachal (India) adjoining in the background. It flows through the mountainous areas of Doda, Ramban, Surukot, Salat, Reasi, Akhnoor and enters into Punjab (Pakistan) at Head Marala where a big headwork has been built facilitating construction of two big channels. India has built Salal dam on it under Indus Water Treaty. On the right bank of it is stretched half of mountainous Doda district, the entire Gulab Garh tehsil of Udhampur district, at a very long distance fall the districts of Rajouri and Poonch all being the Muslim majority areas contiguously linked with Kashmir province which has six districts with 98 percent Muslim population. On the left bank of Chenab fall the beautiful Tehsils of Bhadarwah, Kishtwar having majority Muslim population, and at far away starts the Hindu majority districts of Udhampur, Jammu and Kathua. To sum up, out of six districts of Jammu province almost three districts fall on the right bank of Chenab river having close contiguity with Kashmir province. Only three districts with majority Hindu population fall on the left bank of the river. According to Chenab Line formula of division of Jammu and Kashmir (if agreed to) eighty- percent territory of the state (including Azad Kashmir and Northern areas) becomes part of Pakistan only twenty percent being left with India. This kind of solution of Jammu and Kashmir could be a windfall for Pakistan and the Kashmiris. We all should pray for this to happen.


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